Revenge porn civil remedy bill advances in Senate

Although a measure that would offer civil remedies to revenge porn victims easily passed a Senate Judiciary committee Monday, questions were raised as to whether parents of teen victims could take action against the perpetrator’s parents to gain relief.  

Senate Bill 192 involves the distribution of nonconsensual pornography. It would create a civil cause of action against a person who discloses intimate images of an individual without their consent. The measure applies particularly in circumstances where intimate images are used to embarrass, harm or profit from the victim, said author Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores.

Bohacek said he believes the legislation is well thought-out and will bring peace of mind to victims who must endure private images of themselves floating around in public. The issue first came to his attention after a 19-year-old constituent shared with him her grievous experience with revenge porn that nearly ended in suicide.

“She had a relationship with a boyfriend, thought the relationship was going to last and she could trust him. She allowed images to be taken and he distributed them when they broke up,” Bohacek relayed to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

“I found out then that Indiana has no specific statute, either criminal or civil that will allow her remedy. So, he kept doing it over and over again, sending images to her parents, her family, schoolmates, posting things on websites.”

The cruelty was relentless, Bohacek said, likening it to a weaponization of an intimate relationship.

“To me, it’s tragic that we have to actually pass a law so people can learn how to behave and honor the trust that’s been given to them,” he said.

Chris Nailer, assistant executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, offered IPAC’s support of the measure. He said SB 192 could serve as good first step to fill a void in the civil as well as the criminal realm.

“This would be helpful for prosecutors in protecting victims if a case comes to the prosecutor’s office that doesn’t meet the high burden of a criminal case,” Nailer said. “We can inform people who have been victimized that there is a new civil recourse with this civil action.”

Similar legislation could potentially criminalize the release of nonconsensual pornography. Senate Bill 243 and House Bill 1333, which would charge perpetrators with a Class A misdemeanor for posting images without a depicted individual’s consent. The penalty would increase to a Level 6 felony for a second or subsequent offense.

Both measures passed their houses of origins but have had no further action. SB 243 is assigned to the House Court and Criminal Code Committee, which will hear the measure Wednesday, and HB 1333 is referred to the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law committee, which has yet to schedule the bill for a hearing.

Members of the Judiciary Committee raised concerns about whether SB 192’s language would cover civil penalties for children against children, primarily teens who use social media within their circles of friends at school.

“Could a parent or guardian be responsible for a 14- or 15-year-old under this civil cause of action?” Rep. Woody Burton asked. Bohacek he assumed that if civil penalties were already in place, then parents would be responsible for their children’s actions. Thus, the parents of a victim could potentially take action against the perpetrator’s parents.

I want to make sure that if we did provide more of a civil remedy that this would be something parents can use, because right now I don’t think anyone is taking advantage of it,” Rep. Wendy McNamara said. “They rely upon the schools to solve this problem, and really all we can do is put them in school suspension.”

The committee passed the measure 8-0. It now moves to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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